Endangered Wildlife Is Thriving Inside The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

When most people think of ecological successes, they likely wouldn’t include the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, which was deemed the worst nuclear accident in history.

However, just twelve years after the incident (which occurred in 1986), 30 Przewalski’s horses were released into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and left there. According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, Przewalski’s horses are critically endangered and are considered to be the last true wild horses in existence.

The horses left in the exclusion zone had to fend off wolves and were directly exposed to potentially crippling radiation.

Photo: flickr/Cloudtail the Snow Leopard

Despite the odds being against them, the 30 horses that were released in 1998 have successfully grown to a population of 150!

According to euronews, despite the exclusion zone being “one of the most radioactively contaminated areas in the world,” it’s presently seeing an ecological miracle.

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According to the news site, the area has seen a resurgence of not only the critically endangered Przewalski’s horse but also other species like the rare lynx and vulnerable European bison.

Photo: YouTube/euronews

Nick Beresford, a researcher at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, set camera traps and spoke with euronews, saying, “Our camera trap surveys in Ukraine have photographed Eurasian lynx, brown bear, black storks, and European bison. Ukrainian and Belarussian researchers have recorded hundreds of plant and animal species in the zone, including more than 60 [rare] species.”

The area wasn’t always thriving like it is today. When the nuclear disaster happened, the radiation killed many trees and caused significant damage to the area’s plant and animal life. Humans were and are still not allowed in the area, which could be one reason why the wildlife seems to be thriving just 35 years later.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Though the flora, fauna, and animals appear to be doing great, the area still poses a threat from radioactivity. The area won’t be deemed suitable for humans to live in again for another 24,000 years, and recent crop testing revealed dangerous levels of radioactivity.

“The burden brought by radiation at Chernobyl is less severe than the benefits reaped from humans leaving the area,” Stuart Thompson, a plant biochemistry lecturer, shared with Euronews.


At least for the next 24,000 years, animals and wildlife can continue to thrive in their little accidental sanctuary.

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